This is a letter from my husband, Michael, detailing some of the personal background for the work of Presence Parenting. It’s a vulnerable sharing we hope will help in our efforts to cultivate force free, trust full relationships.
Michael Phoenix here.
Thanks for taking the time to read this… I know that as a parent your spare time is minimal.
I want to take this opportunity to speak a few words about the Sane Parenting Challenge that Amy is inviting us to join. As far as this note, she doesn’t know I’m writing this. (Well, obviously now she does, but she didn’t when it was originally written).
I just read her post, where she said, “I realize, though, that a strong basis of simply being able to stop and reflect in the moment is 99.9% of the journey to change our responses. Yes, 99.9%! Could it be that this seemingly simple, although often so hard, aspect of change is what we need to work on first?”
When I read that I was struck with the memory where she essentially told me the same thing.
It was November 3rd, 2010, and I had just begun a journey of uncovering some intense abuse I had repressed as a child. She looked at me sitting dejected on the edge of the bed frame I was building for our daughters, and said, “Now don’t lash out at me when I say this. But you can feel what you’re feeling.”
I softly laughed to myself, looked her in the eye and said, “You’re playing a dangerous game.”
Before I continue writing, I’m just gonna say that this is going to be a bit vulnerable for me.
You see, I was a kid who at age 11 learned that I needed to stuff my emotions if I was going to navigate the social scene at school. It became a running joke when I was younger that essentially went like, “Aww, are you gonna cry Mike. Don’t cry,” whenever I would get noticeably upset.
Aside from that, I was often told to, “Quit your whinin,” as a way to deal with my emotions.
I was also a kid who often heard, “You have a short temper,” and started to believe it. I was also a kid who served many in-school, and out-of-school suspensions for fighting.
So when Amy told me, “You can feel what you’re feeling,” it was a life changing event.
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve managed to punch my fair share of holes into walls, doors, rip apart old washers, and beat on a great many trees.
On December 24, 2012, I made the decision to leave my family and get my emotions figured out. It was not necessarily the greatest moment of my life when I looked myself in the mirror and realized that my family would be better off if I wasn’t living in the house.
I was doing more damage than good.
And leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
But in doing so, I was able to stop. And feel.
And what I felt was a lot of sadness.
Sadness about a lot of different things. Sadness that had been buried since I was a child.
Over the past year, it has been the “S” of S.A.F.E that has been my watch word.
Now, I come from a deep ancestry of “thick-skulls”. And stubbornness is one of my greatest strengths. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll give you ten reasons why I can, and a few paths that I could get it done.
And if you tell me to do something for my own good, chances are I’m gonna be skeptical.
It took me the better part of two years to actually listen to Amy’s advice. Sure, I would “listen” to her. But when it comes to taking someone’s advice, “I’ve already got it figured out. Thanks, though.”
The result of that, though, is the fact that I became the one thing that I never thought I’d ever be, an abusive husband and father. It wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow when Amy told me she spent three nights with my children in a shelter for victims of abuse, and it was my actions that had her feel it was the only place she felt safe in the world.
Fortunately, I listened before it was too late. And since then, I can say that I’ve made significant progress towards reconciling the conflict inside myself.
So, before you go, I’d like to offer you something from my heart to yours…
Stopping to feel may be the most significant thing we can give ourselves. When we honor our emotional truth, we’re taking a significant step forward in nurturing ourselves in a way we never have before. Shutting down to our emotions, covering them over, or dismissing them is shutting down to a part of ourselves that connects us to a much deeper experience.
Please take a moment to fully feel. It may just change your life.
It did for me!
Thanks again for taking time to read this.
P.S. I encourage to you deeply consider joining the Sane Parenting Challenge. And again, only choose it if it feels right.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this ebook or challenge.